There are two things that come to mind when I think about H.G.Wells classic science fiction novel, “The War Of The Worlds”. First is the famous 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles. Now there was one slick fellow. Welles, not Wells. He wasn't called an enfant terrible for nothing. He had dramatized the novel in the form of a newscast so when people who hadn’t heard the introduction of the show tuned into it, they actually thought the Earth was really being invaded by Martians. Quite a number of people freaked out. The second thing I remember is that the ending in the book had such an unexpected twist to it. In the story, the Martians were a far superior race than the people of Earth. Their weaponry was way more sophisticated so they had little trouble in conquering the Earth. But an unexpected ally came to the rescue. Microbes. The Martians had no natural defenses for microbes. For earthlings these were the type of bacteria that would give us a common cold or perhaps an allergy of some sort. But for the Martians, these basically invisible creatures were totally devastating. Even though they had humiliated the people of Earth and were clearly in control of the planet, it wasn’t long before the Martians started dropping like flies. While Earth did emerge victorious, it was left to clean up a huge mess and it was forced to face the fact that it wasn’t the King of the Hill it thought it was.
I have great respect for H.G. Wells. He wasn’t what I’d call a riveting writer, but the fact that his imagination came up with such a wild tale way back in the nineteenth century when space travel was barely a dream, well, you do have to tip your hat to him. But had I been around back in the late 1800's and had I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Wells, I might have given him the following unsolicited literary advice.
“Herbert, it’s a damn good story but it is drier than the
Mojave Desert. You need to inject a little humor into this massively depressing tale. What about this? We throw out the microbe ending. Let’s have the Martians die of something else. Something really unexpected. Now earlier in the book you’ll have to develop the idea that the Martians had a keen sense of fashion. You would go into great detail how first, their fighting armor and then, their everyday clothes were more original in design and in materials than anything the earthlings had ever come up with. You would have a chapter detailing how, even though the Martians had little respect for anything made by man, especially their insignificant weaponry, they would have been quite smitten with the concept of knitwear. You know, sweaters, vests, scarves, hats, the whole works. It turns out that Martians have no equivalent of wool back home in Mars so they were terrifically fascinated by the whole knitting industry. Once their invasion was pretty much under control, the Martians would have quickly learned how to knit and how to make pretty things for themselves. But here comes the kicker, Herbert. There would be something in sheep’s wool that would be absolutely deadly to the Martians. It would be so itchy that all the Martians would be unable to stop scratching, even after they took off the offending garment. Yes, Herbert, they would scratch themselves to death. Yarn would have saved the day.”
Now H.G. Wells might have liked that suggestion or he might not have. But one should never underestimate the hidden power of yarn. Years from now, when the first astronauts finally land on Mars, if I were NASA, I’d have them take a ball or two of really itchy wool yarn, just in case.